When it comes to hair removal, my mom is a special kind of expert—she’s been threading for over 40 years. She, along with her best friend, learned how to thread as a means of survival in southern Iran, where the summers are long and sweltering, and getting rid of your leg hairs makes life a little bit cooler. My grandmother actually forbade shaving (my mom’s take: “All moms were against shaving. They believed it made hair grow back faster.”). But threading, somehow, was OK.
Years later and a continent over, it was my mom’s turn to teach me and my best friend about hair removal. It started with my “moustache.” Apparently I had one, as the boys on the playground liked to point out. Being 10, I hadn’t fully understood that’s it’s best to ignore boys and their thoughts, so I found myself begging my mom to teach me something—anything—to get rid of the hair above my lip. We settled on trimming with baby shears, and it soon became a pretty frequent activity. She would patiently and delicately trim my upper lip hairs at the kitchen table on nights when my dad was working. Looking back on it, I’m sure my father was well aware his daughters were hairy humans and didn’t care, but we carried out our hair removal like we were producing a new Beyoncé album—it was a serious (and secretive) business.
By the time middle school rolled around, the baby scissors just weren’t cutting it anymore. We briefly dipped into waxing, which was messy and complicated—my mom insisted on making her own wax cloths, controlling wax temperature with a microwave is horrifying, and using a butter knife to spread wax on your face is extremely uncomfortable. We ultimately landed on a better solution, the solution I had been patiently waiting for: threading.
The process is easier than it looks, but tricky to put into words. To start, I grab some thread (preferably silk or high quality cotton), and tie one end around my bathroom sink's faucet. I then make my left hand into an Italian "chef’s kiss"—you know the one—and twist the thread around my "chef’s kiss" a few times, pull the thread to my face, and open the "chef’s kiss" while simultaneously pulling my face back. I repeat this over and over in a sort of rhythm that looks a lot like an adult chaperone swaying to Usher’s “Yeah” at a middle school dance. For years my mom helped me perfect this process to address the hairs on my eyebrows, lip, and chin. And when it was time for me to start school at NYU, she gave me sharp tweezers, a spool of silk thread, and sent me on my way.
I’ve been threading myself for nine years now, using the same spool of thread I received before leaving home. My mother has the same spool from her college years, too—from over 45 years ago. It’s now a point of pride for me to teach my friends the art of the spool, even though most of them would rather skip the lecture and go straight to the threading. And they get threaded for themselves, not because a boy told them that it’s what they ought to do. And I do, too. It took a decade for me to see this—that I wasn’t remedying an embarrassing problem, but rather closing the loop on a connection to family and a sense of ritual. I love being able to remove my hair on my own time and dime. But there’s still a part of me that misses sitting in the kitchen while my mother, glasses and game face on, patiently and delicately removes the hairs from my face.
Photo via ITG